Birmingham & Black Country

Stop-and-search rights card produced for West Midlands

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Media captionSolicitor Errol Robinson said the civil rights cards could help people remain calm if they were stopped and searched

A civil rights card has been produced by a lobbying group in the West Midlands to help people when they are stopped and searched by the police.

Solicitor Errol Robinson said young black and Asian men were seven times more likely to be stopped and searched than white people in the UK.

While acknowledging officers' right to stop and search anyone, Mr Robinson said it could be a stressful situation.

He said he hoped information on the card would help people to remain calm.

Mr Robinson, from the African and Caribbean lobbying group United in Building Legacy, said the aim of the card was to inform people about the stop-and-search process, to help prevent situations from escalating and resulting in arrests, stemming solely from a negative reaction to the stop-and-search.

'Not the law'

"The frequency with which black youths are stopped by police and the anger and upset it causes can quite often be diffused by just a little politeness," he added.

Mr Robinson said he hoped the card would dispel the commonly-held myth that police were only allowed to stop people to arrest them.

He said: "That technically isn't the law."

Officers are obliged to give their name and base station to anyone who requests it, if they are stopped and searched.

Mr Robinson said: "That information is very important because it allows you to pursue any grievance you have about the way that you are treated when stopped by the police."

Image caption The card is designed to "help avoid an escalation in tensions" during a stop-and-search encounter

'Proper explanation'

Home Office figures suggested that black people were seven times more likely than white people to be stopped and searched under all stop-and-search powers across England and Wales in 2009-10.

The Independent Police Complaints Commision said the majority of officers used their search powers in a "considered and professional manner", often under difficult circumstances, but that was not always the case.

It said: "We believe the use of stop-and-search can be highly intrusive, especially where it does not result in an arrest and no proper explanation or justification is given."

West Midlands Police said stop-and-search powers were a vital tool for protecting people and reducing crime.

A spokesman said: "Every year many offenders are identified as a result of them being stopped and searched and others are persuaded not to commit illegal acts as a result of them knowing that they risk being caught.

"A well explained and sensitively conducted stop-and-search can help demonstrate to communities that police are actively tackling crime in their neighbourhood."

The force said work was being carried out to help communities understand the use of stop-and-search and to ensure that officers were aware of the impact the use of these powers could have.

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